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don reitz' closing speech, nceca 2003, notes

updated mon 24 mar 03


AKitchens on sun 23 mar 03

Don Reitz' Closing NCECA 2003 Speech
loosely noted, by Nan Thurn Kitchens

You gotta live on the edge.
Put out your own truth.
Believe in the attitude, I AM my work.

You know, mud is a way to record. When my Dad was giving me directions
he would take a stick and write in the dirt.When Charlie, my Algonquin
Indian friend talked to me, he drew in the dirt.
I record me, my life, by working with dirt, mud. (Clay)

Now you've all gotten a lot out of being here (at NCECA) this week. Now
what? You gotta do something with it when you get home. You got out of
your comfort zone to get to NCECA, now you're going back to making
lunches, getting the kids off to school, doing laundry, cleaning the
Nothing will fall apart, get them to make their own lunches.Give
yourself time to do something with all this passion you have.
Who is in charge? Your condition is your choice.
DO something every day, draw, sculpt, make a pathway to your passion.
Sometimes you gotta get other people on board with you..
A creative mind needs to be open....Find your center.

When I was teaching at Madison the hardest part of the job was how to
figure out how to work with my students in their way. Hell, the hardest
thing about teaching individuals is that you're teaching individuals!
I'd have students that would say I can't do that right now I'm getting
my head together. I'd ask what are you gonna do in the meantime?
I've led a very physical life. I've been a salvage diver, driven a
truck, worked on oil wells, been a lumber jack, worked in a meat market.
I know what physical exhaustion is, and that kind of exhaustion is easy
to recover from. Mental exhaustion is not, and teaching can be mentally
exhausting. So sometimes I'd let them teach each other.
I remember a student that I'll call Greg. Greg was putting kiln wash on
the shelves before he loaded the kiln one day and I asked him, "Greg,
what's that your putting on the shelves?" He said, "kiln wash, says so
right here on the LID of the bucket". So, I went to the class and told
them all to be here at 8:00 am tomorrow to watch the kiln being opened
up........Well you know the rest of the story,Right? Greg learned how to
clean glaze off every one of those kiln shelves and I never had a
problem with students accidently switching glaze bucket lids again......
I found teaching was a lot like parenting...I'd realize that I was awake
in the middle of the night worrying about some of my students then I
realized, why am I worried about her? I'm spending energy in the WRONG
direction! I need to spend this energy on ME!
Start your search for truth......who are you....Don't repeat what is
successful, if you do, you are making art for someone else (your
buyers). GROW within your work.....Practice pretending you're good at it.
Practice pretending.....That's how I got through school (note: Don is
dyslexic) most of the time I pretended I wasn't there.
Transfer your energy from Negative to Positive!
Focus on the positive........
Search for your five.....find your north again..make a long term plan
with short term successes...All my heroes have drawn in the dirt. The
fear comes when we put it on the wall.....and see it.....When we figure
out that that fear is pain we have something we can work with. How big
is it, how wide is it, and then we see that it is a thing that we can do
something with.......
You must first be an artist before you can make art. Don't spend time
wondering how someone else is doing it.....What you should be thinking
is, I'll bet they'd like to be me. You can only do it like YOU do it.
Find the skills to give back to your passion...When I was teaching I'd
try to figure out, how can I excite these people so they don't KNOW
they're getting educated....Know your subject matter.
It's gotta come into your eyes, go through your heart, see cuz that's
where art really comes from, then out of your hand........The current
art out there right now is doesn't feel.....
There was a time in my life when I wanted to get centered again I asked
Charlie, an Algonquin Indian friend of mine that has never in his life
left the bush, if I could come up and stay with him in his hogan for a
while. He asked me "how long will you stay?" I said "just for a season.
I just want to find my self again". He replied, "what can you learn if
you don't stay four seasons.......?"

The biggest applause came when Don said "We all have a need for
touch.....TELL people when you love them....."
And I have taken these notes to heart and that is why I wanted to share
Don's words with you. I have tried to write them in his coloquial style,
remembering his voice inflections. This was truly a speech from the
depths of his heart and soul. And that, in my mind, is why he is such an
inspiration........To those of you who don't know him, Don Reitz is a
vibrant, vital, dynamic and personal speaker and an amazing artist. He
is 73.
Check him out.
Very inspired,
Nan Kitchens
Architectural Clayworks
Monteagle, TN